Meet Vida Lee. Our experience started at nearly 24 weeks when my water broke. It didn’t break completely, but it was enough that doctors worried about potential infection and premature labor. It was categorized as a preterm, premature rupture of the membranes, or PPROM. I was immediately put on strict, in-hospital bed rest at Legacy Emanuel. I received IV antibiotics and steroid shots to strengthen her lungs, and we began the waiting game.
It was very hard to hear all the statistics for premature infants from the neonatologist. Grasping this somewhat grim outlook was one of the most difficult hurdles for me, second-only in impact after the shock of my water breaking. My first nurse at Emanuel offered me sage advice and inspiration, and with her support I was able to persevere. In an ideal scenario where I made it to term, I was potentially facing 16 weeks of bed rest. Ultimately I spent 45 fairly uneventful days on bed rest, and my daughter was born at 29 weeks and 3 days, weighing 2lbs 12oz; she was 15 inches long.
Vida did great in the NICU. She experienced many elements of a typical NICU course: various breathing supports, a feeding tube, and UV light therapy for jaundice. Mostly her time was spent feeding, growing, and strengthening those little lungs.
Vida was in the NICU for 45 days. It felt like a LONG time. Everything was an adjustment. It’s impossible to know how you’ll react to the things you see, hear, and learn with such an early baby.
While Vida was still in the NICU, I learned of the original support group for Randall families, and their support and presence as a sounding board made a huge difference in my outlook on my life going forward as a preemie mom. I continue to seek out and support NICU families through that group and NFNW because it is such an enormous part of our lives now. We’ve been there and are happy to share our story to ease the weight of this new and traumatic experience for others. Vida just turned three years old this past June. She’s perfect, healthy, feisty, and very happy to be alive.
My advice to NICU parents is to take things moment by moment and live in the now. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. Celebrate your baby and allow yourself to be happy despite the less than ideal conditions. Take advantage of free scrapbooking sessions (where available) and print photos of your baby so you can scrapbook their progress. I did this with my husband and daughter, and it was very positive and healing; we took photos of Vida in her smallest and most vulnerable state, and we were proud— we loved her and decorated her photos with sparkles. Be alone if that charges you. Listen to and play music. Sing.
I also suggest your reach out to the Facebook community if you feel strong enough; ask for a mentor if you need one. Local online support was just beginning when I was at Randall, and being able to even read positive outcome stories would have really bolstered my spirits. Remember you can say no to family and friends, and that this situation is not like a traditional newborn experience. If you feel most comfortable sharing it only with those closest to you, then that’s the way it should be.